View across the tops of homes with red tile roofs clustered on the verdant hillside.

View of Santa Lucía, a former colonial mining town just outside Tegucigalpa.
Photo by José David Leiva licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

With a rich and varied tradition of indigenous cultures as well as several centuries of Spanish colonial rule, Honduras has numerous historical monuments and ruins worth visiting.

The Mayan World

The city of Copán was far and away the artistic leader of all the Mayan cities, with ornate sculptures and statues, and the most complete hieroglyphic historical record yet found. The ruins of Copán and smaller surrounding sites, located in a lovely river valley, are worth at least two days, more for the archaeology buff.

Don’t miss a trip to the sculpture museum, with a full-scale, painted replica of an ancient temple in the center, or Las Sepulturas, for a glimpse of how the Mayan daily life. Be one of the first to visit the newly inaugurated sites El Rastrojón and Río Amarillo.

Other Pre-Hispanic Sites

Long before the Maya, Honduras acted as a meeting point of sorts between groups migrating from North and South America, and the country has a rich and still little-understood history of different indigenous civilizations.

Right on the shore of Lago de Yojoa is the recently opened Los Naranjos ruin. Spend the night in a hotel on the lake, both to enjoy the ambiance and to see the ruins early in the morning, when the surrounding tropical forests are alive with birds.

Petroglyphs that are a thousand or more years old can be found across the country, near Las Marías in the Mosquitia, and Yuscarán and Ojojona in southern Honduras. In the Olancho department are dozens barely explored of ruins, possibly built by the forebears of the Pech, or by some other group.

Comayagua and Gracias

Comayagua, in central Honduras, was the country’s capital during most of the colonial era, meriting a day’s stop to see the many architectural monuments and artwork. Stay on for a day or two more if visiting during Semana Santa, when traditional carpets made of sawdust fill the streets for the Easter processions. Gracias is smaller, but the quality of its colonial churches and the overall ambiance make it a much nicer place to spend a couple of days, especially given the proximity to the Parque Nacional Celaque and several lovely Lencan villages. Make sure to take at least one day trip to La Campa and San Manuel Colohete, with elegant and imposing colonial churches.

Colonial Mining Towns

In their lust for gold and silver, the Spanish constructed settlements on any number of mountainsides throughout central Honduras, and these towns are today great places to spend a tranquil afternoon or couple of days, wandering along the cobblestone streets and chatting with locals.

In the hills right above Tegucigalpa is Santa Lucía, a jumble of white-washed, tile-roofed houses clinging to the hillside, surrounded by flowers and pine trees. Also near the capital is El Rosario, a tiny collection of turn of the century 20th mining buildings clinging to a steep cloud-forested hill.

A bit farther afield but still easily visited in half a day are Cedros and Ojojona. A real classic colonial Honduran town is Yuscarán, an hour east of Tegucigalpa on the road to Danlí, a good spot to relax for a day or two to check out the town and mountain countryside.

Excerpted from the Fourth and Fifth Edition of Moon Honduras & the Bay Islands.